The Blues are giving their fans a reason to believe.
Breaking an 18-year Super Rugby title drought with the Transtasman title in 2021, there's no reason they can't back that up in 2022. The performance in their 53-26 win over the Reds on Saturday night in front of almost 20,000 fans gives a clear indication why.
The Blues showed when effort and execution are taken care of, good things will happen, winning their 11th straight game after being beaten by the Hurricanes in the opening round.
Getting the better of the collision, bodies behind the ball and forcing the Reds to chase them around the park, the Blues were superb in most areas.
Guilty of being over-eager around the breakdown in the first half, on the wrong side of a 9-2 penalty count at the break, they addressed that and in the second half saw the penalty count level out.
They didn't force anything early either. The Blues wore the Reds down before looking to stretch them with ball in hand, and they took full advantage when they could. It wasn't a perfect performance, with several loose balls and passes going to ground, and Reds winger Suliasi Vunivalu was often given a bit too much room, but for the most part it was an impressive showing of what this team could be capable of come the playoffs.
The Blues withstood an early charge from the Reds – with some help from the visitors' struggles at the lineout – getting bodies behind the ball and fending the Reds away. With some early momentum, the Reds tried to play everything quickly where they could. But quick lineouts and quick taps from penalties couldn't catch the Blues out.
It was the effort of the Blues early that was the defining feature. While they were getting the better of the collision, the chase on long kicks down field and to get to the tackle soon saw the pendulum swing.
The Blues took a hit 10 minutes in when Rieko Ioane left the pitch with a left hamstring issue, but his replacement Bryce Heem was more than up to the task. Just moments later, he was over the tryline after running a brilliant line to get onto a short ball from Beauden Barrett, splitting the gap in the defence and getting the first try. Caleb Clarke followed suit four minutes later, and the Blues were on the charge.
When the Reds got inside the Blues' 22, they seemed to get an injection of energy. When they got their set piece right, they were able to build off the back of it and with terrific pick-and-go play from close range they scored through a charging Vunivalu, before Ryan Smith went over from close range – a second Heem try separating the two.
The Blues turned the heat up immediately following the restart. The Reds were slow out of the tunnel to restart the match, and the Blues sensed they were there for the taking.
Keeping ball in hand and moving it quickly, the hosts didn't struggle to find a gap in the Reds' line, and scored through Clarke and Barrett within five minutes of the restart. The Blues had almost all of the football through the first 15 minutes of the half, and when Stephen Perofeta crossed with 23 minutes to go, the result looked all but assured.
The Reds didn't have much ball, but they were able to use it well when they did. Two trips into Blues territory led to two tries to Jock Campbell as the Blues defence began to lose shape under pressure.
However, it was the Blues' night, with the win keeping them atop the standings with just two rounds of the regular season remaining.
Blues 53 (Bryce Heem 2, Caleb Clarke 2, Soane Vikena 2, Beauden Barrett, Stephen Perofeta tries; Perofeta 5 cons, pen)
Reds 26 (Jock Campbell 2, Suliasi Vunivalu, Ryan Smith tries; James O'Connor 3 cons)